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The Lost Word: Out of 389 licensed news channels only Doordarshan airs 5 minutes of Sanskrit news in India

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By Prachi Mishra

 

It won’t be erroneous to assume that most of the people in our country are unable to decipher the meaning of Sanskrit shlokas. The 1991 Indian census reported 49,736 fluent speakers of Sanskrit. In the year 2001, the number of speakers of Sanskrit reduced to 14,135. The fact that there’s only one television channel in our country, Doordarshan, which airs news bulletin in Sanskrit reflects the deplorable state of our ancient language.

In today’s world of commercialization, where due to cut-throat competition the news channels are employing several techniques and strategies to undermine their rivals, there is only one channel which, unaffected by this rat-race, has tried to preserve our heritage. What could be more disconcerting than this?

Sanskrit is the root of all major Indian languages, a true reflection of its rich cultural heritage. However with the advent of western- style education system, imposed by the British, Sanskrit has lost its privileged status.

In the present- day scenario, Sanskrit is a language which is looked down upon. It is not prioritized in our society and there is a perception that Sanskrit education is a means to educate only the priests and those who want to teach the subject. Due to this lack of interest, the funds provided for its training are scarce. While in India the state of our ancient language is deplorable, there has been an increased interest in the study of Sanskrit in foreign nations. It is ironic that most of our ancient scriptures and texts are now being translated from Sanskrit by foreign authors.

Amidst this scenario, the attempt of Doordarshan to revive the language in the country is praise- worthy. It has tried to take Sanskrit beyond all the limitations, trying to create a renewed interest for the language. The bulletin aired in Sanskrit is presently only five minutes long, but there has been a demand to increase the duration.

The need of the hour is that appropriate measures should be taken to resuscitate Sanskrit from the abyss it has fallen into. It is sad that, while there are several channels airing bulletins in Hindi, English and other regional languages as well, there’s only one show which is creating awareness of the richness of Sanskrit language.

 

 

 

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Mahalaya: The Bengali radio tradition

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It was four in the morning when I was woken up with a phone call today. The screen said ‘Ma’, my mother.

“Shunchish toh?” (Are you listening?)

I tuned into All India Radio channel (Akashvani), and the familiar long-drawn sound of the sacred conch shell filled the apartment.

Ya devi sarvabhuteshu, shakti rupena sansthita।
Namastashyai Namastashyai Namastashyai namo namaha।।

Most Bengalis would know these lines by heart as they constitute our earliest recollections of Durga puja.

From bleary memories, these lines surface from the time of tape recorders and radios. Early morning would see most of us awake, strains of Mahisasura Mardini floating in from nearby apartments. So successful have been our mothers and grandmothers in inculcating this timeless tradition into our very Bengali souls, that even those staying away from their Kolkata hometown resort to searching out Birendra Krishna Bhadra’s rendering of Mahisasura Mardini on the internet and listening to it as the day’s wake-up call.

Earlier, the day called for night-long feasting ending with the pre-dawn radio programme. A lot of the excitement has dwindled over the ages, but hints of nostalgia continue to grip us.

Mahalaya marks the end of the Pitri Pakhha (a 15-day tradition in which people pay their offerings and respect for their ancestors in river banks, in a ritual called ‘tarpan’) and the beginning of the first day of the fortnight long Devi Paksha.

Traditionally, artisans designing the numerous Durga idols add the final touches to the Goddess on this day– her eyes. After her ‘Chakkhudaan’ (donation of the eyes), the devi is asked to awake: “Jaago! Tumi Jaago!” as goes one of the timeless pieces in the Mahisasura Mardini programme.

Bhadra’s reverberating chants serve to remind Bengalis world wide of their roots and no matter where they are located, Mahalaya brings into fore the excitement that pulses inside every Bengali before Durga Puja.

“Ma asche” (Mother is coming), everyone whispers excitedly, and starts the countdown to the major four days of festivity even though Durga Puja itself is broadly a 10-day festival.

Mahalaya was first broadcast in 1931 over the Akashvani (AIR) radio station. The enchanting hour-and-a-half audio programme is a spirited recitation of Vedic verses from the ‘Chandi Kavya’ interspersed with Bengali devotional songs and classical music. The Mahisasuramardini Strota was written by Guru Adi Sankaracharya.

Organised by Premankur Aatorthi, Birendra Krishna Bhadra, Nripendra Krishna Mukhopadhya and Raichand Boral, the program, tells the story of Devi Durga’s origin and descent on the earth and her eventual vanquishing of the demon king Mahisasura. It was broadcast live till 1958, after which, a pre-recorded version was played. The programme has also been translated into Hindi for the Indian Diaspora.

In 1976, Bengal superstar Uttam Kumar had once recited the Mahalaya under the music direction of Hemanta Kumar. However, it didn’t resonate with the masses the same way and Akashvani went back to Bhadra’s voice.

Bani Kumar wrote the script while the eternal Pankaj Kumar Mallik gave the music. Bengali music stalwarts such as Dijen Mukhopadhay, Sandhya Mukhopadhay, Arati Mukhopadhay and Shyamal Mitra have lent their melodious voices towards Mahisasura Mardini.

In recent times, Doordarshan along with several other TV channels broadcast a visual rendering of the Mahisashura Mardini myth, usually carried out through dance, drama and music.

The story of Mahisashura Mardini speaks of the tyranny of the demon king Mahisasura against the gods and men. Unable to take his atrocities, the gods prayed to Vishnu for salvation from this evil. The trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh (Shiva) use their powers to create a powerful female form- Durga, or ‘Mahamaya’– the source of universal power.

They bestow her with their blessings and the gods give her the weapons she holds in her ten arms. She rides into battle on the back of a lion and vanquishes Mahisasura, earning the name ‘Mahisasuramardini’– the destroyer of Mahisasura.

Mahisaura Mardini is now available in CDs and for download online.

You can listen to Birendra Krishna Bhadra’s version here.

http://youtu.be/-uwjlI82yzk

 

 

 

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EXCLUSIVE: Vishwanath Sanskrit Vidyalaya in Delhi is trying to keep the Cultural Roots Alive in Students through Sanskrit Language

What makes this Sanskrit School different from others?

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Chintamanni Vedpathi with students
Chintamanni Vedpathi with students. Youtube
  • Vishwanath Sanskrit Vidyalaya  is one of the oldest Sanskrit Institutions in Delhi
  • Students wear white dhoti and shirt, they greet their guru or teacher by clasping their hands together
  • The Sri Vishwanath Sanyas Ashram takes care of the student’s  food by providing them with free food and they also stay in hostel free of cost  

New Delhi, August 30, 2017: There is a school in Delhi away from the overdose of technology and westernization. This school is trying to strengthen the roots of Indian culture by giving the gyan (knowledge) of Sanskrit to their students.

Reporter Kritika Dua got in touch with the teachers of Vishwanath Sanskrit Vidyalaya– Jai Prakash Mishra and Rajendra Sharma to know what is so special about this Delhi-based School. To get the taste of the pattern that this school follows, she spoke with students- Virender Tiwari and Pushpendra Chaturvedi who shared some interesting anecdotes about the school.

This Sanskrit Vidyalaya is one of the oldest Sanskrit Institutions in Delhi, where classes begin at 11 am and end at 4.10 p.m. The school has produced many Sanskrit scholars in the past and it is run by Sri Vishwanath Sanyas Ashram, which is located just opposite to the school.

On entering the classroom, you can see students wearing white dhoti and shirt, students greet their guru or teacher by clasping their hands together and sit on the carpeted floor while learning at the Vidyalaya.

One of the teachers at this school, Jai Prakash Mishra said, “around 55-60 students stay in the hostel, rest of them come from other areas in Delhi to study here. The ones who stay in hostel come from different states like Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, and Rajasthan.”

Entrance of Vishwanath Sanskrit Vidyalaya, Delhi.
Entrance of Vishwanath Sanskrit Vidyalaya, Delhi

Students having interest in learning the ancient language of India are welcome in this school, no matter which part of the country they belong to. The only requirement is to be a good shisya (pupil) – he should be serious towards education, ready to lead a disciplined life and should be hard-working.

Mishra added, “the Sri Vishwanath Sanyas Ashram takes care of the student’s  food by providing them with free food and they also stay in hostel free of cost.” There are 10 teachers currently in this school.

Volleyball Court in School Playground
Volleyball Court in School Playground

The students play Volleyball and Cricket in the school playground though there is no sports teacher in the school. Rajendra Sharma, Hindi teacher said, “The students here can get the education -9th class and 10th class called purva madhyama, 11th and 12th called uttar madhyama, till graduation called Shastri though they get a post-graduation degree from the school. The degree they get is from Sampurnanand Sanskrit Vishwavidyalaya (SSVV), Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh as the school is affiliated with this university.”

The School teaches other subjects apart from Sanskrit like Hindi, history, science, English literature, English Grammar, law etc.  Sharma told about his expectations from the students, “Our students are preserving Indian Culture by learning Sanskrit. I wish that they have a bright future ahead.”

ALSO READ: Move to Make Sanskrit Classes Mandatory Raises Ruckus in Assam

The students of this all boy’s school have short cropped hair which is sometimes shaven heads with tufts of hair at the back. They are rooted in Indian culture which can be seen through their behavior, good manners, dressing and talking sense.

Rahul Shukla, a 9th class student said that he can recite shlokas perfectly and wants to be a Shastri when he grows up. Vishwanath Sanskrit Vidyalaya has branches in Haridwar, Varanasi, Shimla, Kolkata, Mount Abu, and Bikaner.

Virender Tiwari (19) is pursuing graduation from this school and here the B.A first year course is called Shastriya Pratham, and he will become a Shastri after he completes his graduation. Tiwari said, “my experience has been extremely enriching in this school so far, all the knowledge I have of Sanskrit is because of what I have been taught here.”

Pushpendra Chaturvedi completed his graduation last year, now he lives in Dilshad Garden and is a priest in a temple. Pushpendra said, “I came to this school in the 9th standard, this school did a lot for me and I have fond memories of this place. I want to pursue B.ED and become a Sanskrit teacher.”

He talked about the ex-principal of the school, Ram Sarmukh Dwivedi, 95 years old Mahatma. He was a Sanskrit  Scholar and had in depth knowledge of Sanskrit language, literature, and ‘Ved Puran’. The current Principal of this unique Sanskrit school is Dr. Brahmachari Balram.


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Tamil Nadu Schools make Singing Vande Mataram Mandatory

The Madras court has announced that all schools throughout Tamil Nadu must make the singing of Vande Mataram mandatory

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Vande Mataram Mandatory
Students are to sing the national song twice as per the Madras High Court ruling. Wikimedia
  • Singing Vande Mataram is now mandatory in every school of Tamil Nadu after Madras high court announced its ruling
  • The students are to sing the national song twice every week
  • Given a valid reason, an individual or group may be exempted from the decision

July 29, 2017: Tamil Nadu school students are now compelled to sing Vande Mataram as per the Madras High Court’s recent ruling. The national song is to be sung twice a week.

Private as well as government schools have been instructed to comply with the ruling and confirm that it is implemented in their schools.

ALSO READ: First Clap: Short Film Fest to Unearth Budding Filmmakers from Tamil Nadu

The Madras Court’s ruling was the result of a petition filed by K Veeramani. Mr. Veeramani, interestingly, was unsuccessful in clearing the written test in the process of recruiting teachers because of a question related to the National song, mentioned PTI.

In an objective type question, K Veeramani selected Bengali as the original language in which national song was written. This answer was considered wrong by the board. Veeramani scored 89 while the cut off was 90. For this one mark and “wrongfully” missing the opportunity to work, he petitioned to the High Court.

And he was right. Advocate General R Muthukumarswamy agreed to K Veeramani’s claim. The National Song was originally penned in the Bengali Language.

PTI reports Justice M V Muralidharan gave no actual reasons behind this verdict. The Justice also said that Monday and Friday should be the ideal days.

Justice M V Muralidharan’s ruling is backed by Article 226 of the constitution; The High court posses the power to pass orders within their juridicial territory upon any individual or group. The Judge also stated, “If people feel it is difficult to sing the song in Bengali or in Sanskrit, steps can be taken to translate the song in Tamil. The youth of this country are the future of tomorrow and the court hopes and trusts that this order shall be taken in the right spirit and also implemented in letter and spirit by the citizenry of this great nation.”

– prepared by Saksham Narula of NewsGram. Twitter: @Saksham2394